Immediately after the school shooting in Texas, where at least 10 people were killed, I saw a screenshot from the killer’s Facebook page that listed his religion as “atheist.”
I know there’s a lot of fake information that gets spread about killers after these kinds of tragedies, so I took that screenshot (and others) with a grain of salt. I didn’t want to perpetuate false information and become a part of the “fake news” problem.
Now, however, it looks like the early screenshots did portray real information about the alleged killer, Dimitrios Pagourtzis. He apparently had no interest in politics and was bullied by students and coaches alike, according to the Washington Post.
Jeremy Severin, whose son was on the junior varsity football team with Pagourtzis, said his son Dustin passed Pagourtzis in the school halls five minutes before the shooting. Pagourtzis had been teased and bullied in the past not just by fellow classmates but by the football coaches, Severin said.
“Coaches would say that he stunk, smelled like crap,” Severin said.
In the Facebook account, he described himself as an atheist and said, “I hate politics.”
The accuracy of the Facebook account has been verified by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (as mentioned in that same Post article), so perhaps it’s true he listed himself as an atheist. It’s also possible, though, that he made adjustments to his Facebook page when he began planning his massacre and his religious affiliation was one of them.
The truth is we don’t really know why he was listed as an atheist, or how seriously he took it (if it was accurate), or how it manifested in his life. We don’t know if he actively didn’t believe in gods and promoted those ideas, or if he was more apathetic about religion and his status was part of some rebellious personality he reportedly adapted over the last few months. His patches, which promoted everything from the Community Party to Nazi Germany to Cthulhu, suggest that’s a real possibility.
There is also some information out there that contradicts the notion of Pagourtzis as an atheist.
His family is heavily Christian, and Pagourtzis himself danced in a festival as part of a Greek church group.
The suspect’s mother mostly shared positive sayings on her Facebook page and made mentions to Greece. “Love fiercely because this all ends,” read one post she shared. She also shared positive phrases about Jesus Christ and being Christian.
The family appears to be involved in Greek dancing through an Orthodox church. The suspect’s mother shared a photo of Greek dancers on her Facebook page.
In 2014, Dimitrios Pagourtzis was a dancer at the Galveston Greek Festival, according to a post on Facebook. The son’s photo was also shown on the website for the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, a Greek Orthodox Church in Galveston, Texas, where he appeared as a Greek dancer.
Of course, being involved in a Christian dance group doesn’t mean the person is a believing Christian. But he definitely had a strong Christian upbringing. We don’t know if his atheism came in reaction to that; I hope we learn more about it as investigations proceed.
For now, we should understand that his atheism, if he was an atheist, has not been linked with any motive for his murder spree. All he’s told authorities is that “he targeted students he didn’t like and wanted his story told.”